The north face of the Aiguille Verte (4122m), Mont Blanc Massif, France. The red line marks the new route (III WI5+ M7, 500 meters) climbed on February 19 by Gerald Durand and Philippe Batoux. Criss-crossing their new line is the Ravenel-Frendo route (A1 90 degrees mixed, 600 meters) in blue. [Photo] Philippe Batoux
Although the weather is still too warm to have winter in the Alps this year, my friends and I recently established some cold-weather lines around Mont Blanc.
Our first route was an obvious gully on the east face of the Grepon (3482m), Aiguilles de Chamonix, Mont Blanc Massif, France. It starts with a 60-meter pitch of near-vertical ice-covered slab. A 65 degree couloir follows with some steeper gully and mixed sections for about 500 meters until it diverges. On February 1, Jean Francois Reffet and Jeremie Ponson climbed the right gully finishing between the Aiguille de Roc and the Grepon to establish Eclaires Ma Nuit (III WI5+ M4, 600m). Benoit Robert, Mathieu Cortial and I decided to try the left gully, finishing along the Grepon ridge below the summit for a harder variation: Illumines Mes Jours (III WI5+ M5+, 650m).
Then on February 19, Gerald Durand and I climbed a new route on the rock triangle below the Couturier Couloir, on the north face of Aiguille Verte (4122m), Mont Blanc Massif, France. The new mixed route (III WI5+ M7, 500 meters) is a modern addition with a short approach (only fifteen minutes from the summit of the Grands Montets Telepherique). It follows the face’s most beautiful line through two crux pitches–sixty meters of steep icy snow and thirty meters of M7 in a slippery dihedral. The hard mixed section was covered with an unexpected and treacherous five centimeters of ice. We descended via the Couturier Couloir to return to our skis at the bergschrund.
Gerald Durand on Pitch 7 (WI4) of the new route below the Couturier Couloir (III WI5+ M7, 500 meters), Aiguille Verte (4122m), Mont Blanc Massif, France. [Photo] Philippe Batoux
Manu Pelissier, Marko Prezelj, Arnaud Guillaume, Jeff Mercier and other climbers also managed to find good conditions in the area, especially on Brain Death and Bad Craziness (V M4 A1, Dale-Thornhill, 1986) on the east face of Aiguille du Plan. Some of them needed only three and a half hours to repeat the Grade V route. Despite these small pockets of good winter conditions, temperatures are so hot that there is still very little ice, sadly, but that means we can rock climb as though it were May…